Imagine a country shrouded in centuries of mystery and tradition. Imagine a verdant paradise cradled within the mighty folds of the majestic Himalayas. Imagine people who cherish happiness above all materialistic gains and comforts. Imagine Bhutan.
Known to its people as the Land of the Thunder Dragon (Druk Yul), Bhutan is the last great Himalayan Kingdom, and quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This is a land where heritage and tradition are not mere artefacts to be locked away inside museum walls; in Bhutan, history lives, breathes and is inexorably intertwined with the modern day. For many centuries, or perhaps longer, Bhutan was something of an enigma for travellers. The country has fiercely guarded its national identity against invasions and foreign influences until recently when, in 1974, Bhutan cautiously opened its doors to tourism.
For modern-day visitors, Bhutan is thus not just a unique destination, but an inimitable experience. It is a country that is perhaps best described as unique – here, the monks are educated and well-informed about the outside world, history is narrated with fascinating stories of dragons and demons, and environmental protection is not just lip service but an integral part of cultural preservation. In Bhutan, citizens are legally required to ensure that at least 60 percent of the country stays forested for future generations.
For you, the traveller, this means breathtaking, high-altitude treks in emerald forests or leisurely strolls past lush rice fields and through blazing stretches of rhododendron, even as you gaze upon the majestic 7,000 m peaks towering above the land. Birding enthusiasts can feast their eyes on several rare species in the country’s many national parks. Visiting the country’s many fortress-like monasteries lets you experience the magic of a land frozen in time, as you wander amidst medieval architecture and witness the lively tsechus or dance festivals, and heroic archery competitions. And then, there’s also the exquisite Bhutanese national attire, which the locals proudly wear for their routine activities.
There are many reasons why people visit Bhutan. Some, to experience Nature the way it was intended – pristine, untouched and sacred. Some, to experience Buddhist spirituality, which is a vital part of the country’s cultural fabric. Some, to view this fascinating intertwining of tradition with the strong sense of cultural identity that still thrives amidst present-day technological conveniences. And some others, to simply experience what the happiest country in the world feels like.
Whatever your reason may be, it is good enough to visit the last living Shangri-la – the last piece of heaven on earth, at least once in your life.